Tuesday, October 30, 2018

An Awareness of Suffering in Your Own Body

Yes, My body is suffering and its suffering badly.  The reason is the disease Ulcerative Colitis. How does your body suffer?  Is suffering of your body real?  Is your body suffering or you are suffering?  The questions could go on and on your suffering.  Finally, we have to find an answer which involves our humility to accept this complex reality of our human body that is a mystery. 

Along with our thoughts and minds our body suffers when sickness enters.  Moreover the body suffers terribly when we begin to treat our sickness.  We take medicines, tablets, syrups, undergo various therapies, receive biological medicines, inject steroids and so on and so forth.  When we take these medicines, our body begins to ache especially not the part which is sick but the other good parts of the body.

One of the examples I could describe here is how I developed cataract in both of my eyes. Before I could get the Ulcerative Colitis I had a very good eyesight and vision.  Within 10 months of starting my medication which included strong steroids and biological medicines I already began to feel dimness in my eye sight.  The matter got worse when I went through the scanning (CT) of my stomach a procedure followed by receiving a lengthy injection.  Once I got out of the scanning theatre one of my eye couldn’t see anything and everything looked to me blurred.  After three months when I went through second scanning I lost the vision of my another eye. Continuous taking of allophatic medicines cause nothing but suffering of weaker parts of the body.  Finally, tablets and other substances that are injected into the body are nothing but chemical compositions which enter an alien body causing the human body such an anxiety.  At last, the natural human body is unable to withstand with the foreign agent making its home in it.

This above incident suggests that our human body is continuously threatened not only by viruses, germs and other bacteria’s but also those components which supposedly rectify the body.  If you take each part of the body separately, nerves, finger, colon, heart, liver, skin, membrane, tissue, nano cells of the body, retina, etc., you might ask don’t these parts of the body asking themselves why I should be receiving the consequences of an injection which is meant to the colon but adversely affecting the retina of the eye? 

- Olvin Veigas
30 Oct 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Few Titbits While Dealing With a UC or Cancer Patient

Experience teach you many things in life.  Struggling and coping with ulcerative colitis has taught me a number of lessons which otherwise would not.  Books and experiences of others inform you many things. Seldom, we make them our own.

One of the blessings that I have received with my prolonged illness is a lot of sympathy and kind words and sometimes good deeds.  When a person is ill for a long time, many come to see and would like to talk to the person while in agony.  Often such talks become unbearably painful, irritating and even distressing when a visitor unable to read the mind of the patient.  I appreciate always visits by those whom I know and who are somehow connected with my life.  I’m not at ease with those people whom I do not know and have to do anything either with my life or life of my friends or my mission/apostolate.  Moreover, I find myself very difficult to answer those people whenever they have questions on my disease or on my life itself.  Everyone should practice some do’s and don’ts while visiting a person who is suffering from illness for a long time and all the more when the person is young. 

Every one has good intentions while visiting the sick person but it would be extremely good how the visiting person could be a better help than a hindrance in alleviating the pain and suffering of the patient.

I would suggest following things which you might help concretely and pragmatically.

Things may not be easy for you but you can do loads of things and these tips might help you.
  1. Good to know who the patient is and what kind of terminal disease s/he is suffering from.  Sick person does not like to show himself/herself as sick but instead likes same things as before.
  2. Please don’t ask but just do seeing the needs: Often people give tips to the patient what he should do and shouldn’t do including suggesting a different doctor or hospital without knowing the patient’s sickness.  The best thing you can do is instead of asking “how can I help you” just provide the food the patient likes, books to read, music the person might enjoy, take the person out for some sight seeing, a movie or to a park and so on.
  3. Do not spiritualise his/her sickness: Don’t say “God has given you this sickness to purify you,” “to make you holy” or “God has great plans for you”.  Please don’t be God’s advocate. Bible says “My (God's) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my (God's) ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
  4. Don’t preach like charismatic to a sick person especially saying that sickness is a result of your sin or the curse handed down though your ancestors, work of the devil in your life, etc.
  5. Remember every sick person prays silently to God, if that is not visible then please remember that his/her body prays silently.  If God has given you life then he gives grace to fulfil it too.
  6. Everyone is a theologian in sickness. S/he knows make sense of his/her terminal illness. On of the Church Fathers of the Eastern Church Evagrius Ponticus says “if you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian”. - Treatise on Prayer, 61
  7. Speak with the person his topics of interest like, politics, economics, literature, music, films, art, spirituality, history, science, cosmology, new technologies, etc. and please not your topics. The patient intentionally wants to divert his/her attention from sickness s/he is suffering from. Perhaps you might like to recall wonderful things that you did together when the person was in good health, or narrate part of a happy incident.
  8. If you have no time visit the person, one of the loveliest things you can do to the sick person  is pick up the phone and call him/her.  That may be right moment the person is waiting for some sort of solace or consolation.  Or else send a text message or a card saying that “I am with you”, “ I am thinking of you”, “I’m remembering you in my prayers,” etc,.
  9. You can’t cure the terminal illness: Please don’t say “you have tried this”, “you have done enough of medications “ “now no use”,  etc.
  10. No solutions please.  Don’t try to lead the discussion to the terminal disease the person suffering from.  Always try to divert to other topics.
  11. If possible have some laughter with the person. Crake a suitable joke or narrate a numerous incident that took place.
- Olvin Veigas
  29 Oct. 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Did we humans get a Savior or not? - A Comment

I received a number of comments for my post on "Why did You get this UC?".  My learned priest friends and lay people appreciated my thoughts over the issue of Charismatics and how these Charismatics devour simple Catholics with a bad theology of sin, satan and sickness. Here below I publish a comment by Filomena Giese.

Dear Father,

I have read your blog in which you have described your experience with charismatic healers. 
It shows the fundamental flaws in this sin-charismatic-healing movement.  
It stems from a misunderstanding to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic teaching that mankind disobeyed GOD and sinned and caused the evil, suffering, and imbalance in the world.  And hence you need a Savior to take away the sins of the world.

There's this strain of religion that has you constantly feeling like a sinner and promotes the idea that we must constantly be praying for forgiveness of our sins and the sins of humanity!  This is the Divine Mercy cult and the apparitions of Fatima and Medugorje, and the new charismatic healing movement these days.

Did we humans get a Savior or not?
The answer is definitely YES.
This new fashion charismatic movement is forgetting that Jesus Christ came to take away our sins and He achieved this by his death on the Cross! 

The second heresy that this kind of charismatic healing movement is promoting is the false belief that one's illness is caused by sin!  It's a heresy in my opinion and against the great Christian belief that Jesus won us forgiveness and mercy.  We believe that God is an all loving, merciful God who would never inflict illness on any living creature because he or she has committed some wrong!

It is also a false belief that some people have been given a special power to remove illness and give healing.  This is what the Fundamentalist cults teach to brainwash people, and get power over innocent people and their complete submission.   There are miracles and great healing miracles.  But they are by very saintly people who credit the healing to God, not themselves.  And great saints are compassionate toward those who are suffering.  They never say that the illness is caused by the patient's sins.  And great saints actually nurse ill people, regardless of their sins and even faith beliefs.  They don't tell them they are sick and dying because they sinned!

Hence St. Joseph Vaz washed, fed, nursed, and often healed the abandoned victims of small pox in Kandy, Sri Lanka, for 2 years, without asking them if they were Buddhist, Christian, or Hindu and without asking them about their sins!

Please feel free to share my feedback on your Blog.


Community of St. Joseph Vaz (1651-1711), Apostle of Kanara and Sri Lanka

Editor's Note: Dr Filomena Giese is a theologian and President of the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute, California, US.  Being a great devotee of St Joseph Vaz, she had a miraculous healing through his intercession.  The Institute's efforts were devoted in hastening the Servant of God, Fr Joseph Vaz's cause to a sainthood not only by spreading his devotion through gatherings, writings and a thesis on Joseph Vaz but also making the files on this holy man move in the Vatican quickly, so that he could be proclaimed a Saint of the Catholic Church. Dr Giese's many writings have been published in the Vidyajyothi Theological Journal and other reputed Journals as well.

- Olvin Veigas

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why Did YOU Get This Ulcerative Colitis?

In my last blog post, I wrote on how a person gets Ulcerative Colitis.  In this blog entry, I would like to deal with another question which purposely I left out to answer. All the more this question irritates me more than any other enquiries: Why did YOU get this disease? Connected with the same inquiry, I would like to deal with another sick question, how did I deal with satanic charismatics on my sick bed?

For my surprise, I find the answer already with the questioner.  Unfortunately I got this question mainly from charismatic preachers or followers of charismatic retreats.  Their number is no small in our Catholic Church today.  Unfortunately, newly converted charismatic preachers and their followers are hell bent on telling you why you get either terminal diseases or autoimmune diseases or any other such bad things happen to you.  The charismatic preachers and their followers have known to hear the voices of God, angels and saints instantly and directly.  These charismatics have ready made answers for you and for your problems with ready made judgements to pronounce on you.  For them, Bible tells everything and gives all the answers.  Without getting into historical-grammatical method of exegesis or going back to the original languages of our sacred scriptures, or going back to the exegesis and teachings of the Early Fathers of the Church, (I spent a number of years studying in two European Universities and one US University) the recently mushroomed charismatics of our church in India make no less effort in telling you how bad guy you have been and God has showed you your rightful place through his friend Satan. Often they come to you as three friends of prophet Job of the Old Testament in different times with varied musings and how you have hurt God, your Creator. 

Unfortunately, the first person who began to tell others and finally told me directly a year ago after attending the National Charismatic Convention in Mangalore, about the root cause of my disease is my own close relative.  Firstly, according to this charismatic, I got the dreaded Ulcerative Colitis disease because of my past sins especially when I spent 16 years of my life with the family.  I joined the Jesuits to be a priest at the age of 18.  Unfortunately, my close relative could not voice out what are those my past sins which are so treacherous to get a such heinous wrath from God.  Secondly, my close relative went on to narrate how he was revealed by the preachers at the National Renewal Program at the Rosario Cathedral that the whole world is in the hands of Satan.  Earlier he had such a revelation from Mulki Charismatic Retreat Centre.  Unfortunately, according to him, I have been badly caught by this Satan and as a result I have this disease and moreover it’s not getting healed for my bad luck, because the whole world is under the power of Satan!  Further, my relative went on to narrate that sickness comes because the person is not praying, not reciting rosary, not going for confessions, not respecting the elders and one’s parents!  The list is endless.  I have been a priest in good standing for the last 12 years and am in the 26th year of my religious life and a member of the Society of Jesus out of which I spent 15 years abroad as a missionary especially in Moscow and Siberia of Russia! (I suppose during my life in Sibera where temperatures go below minus 40 degree celsius - known for gulags and place of punishment during the Soviet times - should have been a earthly purgatory for my childhood sins and their reparations). 

A few months later of my close relative's revelation over my ill health, I received a guest who happened to be a recent convert to charismatic faith, a student of my Jesuit friend and relative who came to see his guru who was in his last stages of life as a result of terminal cancer.  My Jesuit friend asked me in advance whether I’m ready to welcome his student who is now a charismatic witness-giver but wants to prayer over him and on me.  I agreed out of courtesy as my Jesuit friend was my next room neighbour.  Well, this charismatic witness-giver went on giving me passages after passages from the Bible mainly from the Old Testament how Satan is active and why he has surrounded me with this disease.  This charismatic witness giver tried his level best to convince me that this sickness that I have is because of unforgiveness and active presence of devil in the world.  He gave me a number of passages to read and exercises to do on a notebook.  This poor creature spent with me more than 90 minutes, which gave me a glimpse of how charismatic preachers try to fool the simple catholics of today in India and take them for ransom as hostages for nothing.  Even though, I attended a moderate charismatic retreat preached by a Jesuit from Bombay for our province men in 1990’s which in fact, I liked it then the present experience was simply unforgivable for its scandalous outlook.  However, in an another charismatic retreat where we the Jesuit scholastics from Dharwad were asked compulsorily to be volunteers during my college studies, I had questioned myself why our Christian God is so deaf when the whole congregation of people assembled in St Joseph’s Church grounds Dharwad screamed, and shouted praises and alleluia’s in a university town which would reach my university college KCD.  I had found myself an answer then in the Kannada saying "Jana Marulo, Jatre Marulo" when my student friends from the college asked one after another.  Undoubtedly, the academic vigour of Dharwad had made me then an absolute alien to the charismatic shoutings at the church grounds of Dharwad and made any impression on me at all.

A couple of months ago, my British priest friend who came to work with me on a particular project met an another lay charismatic preacher who seems to be having healing powers brought to see me.  As ulceration in my colon was increasing I was confined to my bed and room.  After a few minutes of chatting, prayers were conducted over me by this lay charismatic preacher along with his another lay friend whom I found certainly in some restlessness and went on say “Amen” to his guru's chantings and my priest friend.  As a devout catholic, I said "yes" and willingness to heal then and there.  Towards the end of the prayer, the charismatic preacher said "you are healed" completely.  I said how is it possible so quickly, and their mutterings were answered.  And it was  because of my faith came the reply.  After which they left and I was back to my normal symptoms of ulcerative colitis!  Mercifully, this time, I did not hear from the charismatics’ favourite word ‘Satan’ instead I heard “binding”!

I have received not a few messages, internet links from many of my charismatic acquaintances on preaching by the charismatic preachers in the last three years.  Always with a note of thanks I have always asked them, do you know what kind of disease I suffer from.  Hardly any of my acquaintances or charismatic preachers inquired about my disease and how I am coping with. In sum, for these charismatics any sickness is the direct result of satanic force or unforgiveness.  I found in none of them a sense of reason, critique in dealing with these existential issues, let alone a general good knowledge of our finite, mortal, sickly bodies which are constrained by time and space and prone to infirmities.  The idea of devil or Satan has stuck in their minds so much, sometimes I strongly feel that devil is standing up in them, all he needs is the two horns!  Just like a child which longs and speaks about chocolates, so too the charismatic preachers think and meditate on Satan.  That is why they are so judgemental and their every conversation begins with Satan and ends on Satan alone. When will these charismatics learn fides quaerens intellectum dictum of St Anselm? Faith seeking understanding/intelligence or faith that does intellectually intelligible or reasonable.  When will these charismatics take out from their mind and mouth once and for all the word "Satan", "sin" and begin speaking on and about God, His love, compassion, mercy, benevolence and grace? I wish these charismatics first begin to read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels which explicate so vividly theodicy and get to the bottom of the sense of evil in our human world.  Secondly, along with Bible begin to read the theological writings of St Bonaventure, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Adolf von Harnack, theologians of Nouvelle théologie and the 20th century theologians. Hopefully, this would be only way to stop the filthy intelligence being vomited by the charismatics of our catholic church and stop the nonsense in describing the sense of evil in the life of the person and in society.

Unfortunately, until now I have not seen or heard a person of charismatic spirituality either proclaimed by our Holy Church Saint, or on the way to sanctity.  I only know their rates when you call them for retreats in schools, communities and parishes and how offertory bags they open at the end of the retreat when they have mesmerized simple folks minds with sin, Satan, guilt and wrath of God.  I wish to see the charismatic preachers and witness givers men and women of holiness, justice and peace.  And my humble request to these lay charismatic preachers and their followers is that sick and infirm basically need acceptance, compassion, encouragement and moreover silence.  Silence at the mystery of life and death moreover sickness itself.  Thus, people of God understand that sickness or infirmity is a way to holiness and sanctity.  Sickness and infirmity are neither a curse from God nor a possession of Satan but a very much part and parcel of human life on this earth which is short lived.  As Friedrich Nietzsche said we are all unfinished realities.  St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus puts it so beautifully: “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.  And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”

- Olvin Veigas 
06 Oct 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018

How Did You Get This Disease?

Autoimmune diseases are scary and frustrating.  When a person suffers from a such an illness, well wishers and others begin to ask, how did you get this disease?  Or more emphatically they would put this another philosophical/spiritual question, why did you get this disease?  The stress is on “you”! Holy moley, every human being comes into the world with some sort of sickness or bad health either in its infancy or adult life!  Some children are born with sicknesses which might be fatal once they come in touch with this world.  So, why then people continue to ask these questions in spite of knowing the title of the disease?

I have become weary hearing the above questions repeatedly and not less answering them as a wise man or pundit!  Recently, I have begun to answer the inquirers of my health saying either I’m perfectly well or  simply say it’s a private issue.  Thus trying to stop the conversation over this issue temporarily.  In the early stages of my disease, I began to tell the inquirers that I’m getting better.  However, when my own research on Ulcerative Colitis showed and my own fight with the disease continued uninterruptedly there was no end and that there was no medication to heal the disease at sight.  I began to feel the frustrations within.  Nevertheless, I have to find a suitable answer to people where I can quickly answer their inhibitions and prejudices about the disease itself.

Here are a few of the conclusions I have arrived at through my research on how the Ulcerative Colitis comes:
  1. UC is a autoimmune disease.  Thus, the disease can affect anyone who has low immune system in one’s body.
  2. Pancreas produces pancreatic enzymes for digestion converting the food which is in the intestine we eat into fuel for the body's cells.  However, when there is no enough food to digest, the same enzymes begin to eat up the lining of the intestine.
  3. UC by its very name suggests that it is a disease of the colon or larger intestine, wherein ulcers emerge. Thus leading to weakening of the digestive system, inflammation of the intestine, lack of control of the mussels of the bowels leading frequent expulsion of the stool with or without blood and mucous. Sometimes, it could be only expulsion of blood accumulated as a result of excessive ulceration in the colon.
  4. Any gastrointestinal problems arise because something is not functioning well in the digestive track.  Before, one gets UC, the person might have been suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc. Interestingly, haemorrhoids, fistula, etc., are the symptoms of lack of functioning of the digestive track.
  5. Mind-gut axis.  Recent researchers have been working on understanding this UC based on a number of studies on our nervous system.  Specifically the Vegus nerve seems to be playing a vital game with its connectivity between the gut and brains. When a person is stressed out, under sever pressure, his/her digestive system goes out of order.
  6. Weather and environment: Gloomy weather without a sun is disgusting and leaves its traits on a person's health, behaviour, thinking and acting.  People who live in Nordic countries where sunshine is scarce during the winter tend to be different from people leaving in the tropical countries.  When cold, damp, cloudy, rayless days continue digestive system begins to weaken unless other remedies are sought.
  7. Here below are a few links which throw more light on Ulcerative Colitis, it’s symptoms, causes, and cure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Education During the Middle Ages and iGen of Today

What we are today is because of yesterday. Even though it is a bold statement, yet, the fact is that the very way of acting, behaving and thinking is based on a system of pedagogy - paideia, (παιδεία) education, which is nurtured firstly, by the Greeks and secondly, by the Latins.  Experiments on education continue even today.  Once again interest in classical education is beginning to generate at the wake of internet culture and the ills its brings along quite forcefully.  The classical education forms the whole person, leading students to truth thus building them in faith, character and intellect.

Unlike standard academic programs of today, a “classical” school focuses on memorization, close study of primary-source “great books” and the liberal arts, rather than using conventional text books. The aim is that of Biblical narrative: The truth will set you free. The teacher’s goal is to prepare its pupils to receive that truth faithfully.

Psychologist Jean Twenge has coined the today’s generation of students as “iGen”, which is overpowered or engulfed with a ubiquitous access to smartphones with internet access causing harm to their emotional health and well-being of teens.

“The members of the iGen, born between 1995 and 2012, are far less religious, more morally neutral, more likely to question marriage, and less likely to get married than previous generations, according to Twenge’s data.  They are also likely to remain at home, living with their parents, longer than previous generations.”

This iGen needs an education with the coherence and logic offered by the classical curriculum.  Moreover, the iGen “needs a new set of stories” to help form them as adults capable of engaging in “functional and fruitful relationships.”

Fascinatingly, reading a book on St Peter Faber (1506-1546), a Savoyan Jesuit, I came across how the classical education was imparted in the Middle and later Middle Ages.  A short abstract is here and we can imagine the great catholic theologians, philosophers and saints were nurtured in such an environment! 

Here it goes the description:
"Daily life in all the colleges followed this pattern. Roused at 4 AM the students, carrying ink pots, candles, and notebooks, stumbled bleary-eyed to the first class at 5 AM, followed by Mass at 6 AM, after which the shivering youths broke their fast with a pieces of dry bread and some water.  The second class lasted from 8 AM until 10 AM followed by dialectical exercise for an hour.  Next there was a frugal dinner with a Latin text being read in the background, after which students were questioned about the matter dealt with in the morning.  Then, by way of relaxation, came the reading of Latin authors until the third class, which lasted from 3 PM until 5 PM; next came another disputation, followed by a wretched supper at 6 PM;  at 7 PM the students were again questioned, this time on the day’s studies, and at 8 PM in winter and 9 PM in summer, after a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, they were sent hungry to bed.

There were some compensations for the rigours of life and the unremitting study: pageants, masquerades, fairs, dances at the crossroads, sports on the Ile aux Vaches, and numerous fights in which students vented their pent-up frustrations and resentments." 

One of the famous colleges of the University of Sorbonne (Paris) is College de Montaigne founded in 1314, where the well known humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536) studied.  "He suffered so much there that by way of revenge he gave details of the trials he and others had to endure within its walls: scurvy, fleas, hard beds, and harder blows (all the masters carried canes and used them frequently and mercilessly), putrid herrings, rotten eggs and wine so sour that it tasted like vinegar.  There was still worse: some first-year students died of hardship and hunger, went blind or mad, or became infected with leprosy. Erasmus may well have exaggerated; but the evidence indicates that the students, many of them mere children, were underfed, overworked, and mercilessly bullied." (From the book, The Spiritual Writings of Pierre Favre, Pages 12-13)

Fascinatingly, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Peter Favre and St Francis Xavier and other first Jesuits studied in Sainte-Barbe college founded in 1450. The saints were students from 1525-1536 in Sorbonne University, Paris, France, the second university founded after the university of Padua, Italy.

Olvin Veigas
03 Oct 2018